‘Baby Driver’: A Lead Footed Lesson in Cool

This piece would have been posted sooner had the film been released here in Spain when it was in the US and UK. I apologize for the tardiness. Because of this, I have been forced to endure a fortnight of praise and semi-spoilers on Twitter, while waiting to see the latest release from one of my favorite directors, Edgar Wright. I have seen each of the Cornetto Trilogy films a dozen times, I know most of the lines to Scott Pilgrim by heart and “Spaced,” is my time machine I use when I’m feeling nostalgic want to go back to the ’90s. This might be the film of 2017 I was most excited to see.

So did it live up to the hype?

“Baby Driver,” is a film about obsession. It’s about other things too, but each character is driven primarily by one singular motivation above all else. It could be money, power, drugs, or adrenaline, but each character has a compulsion they simply can’t ignore.

The main character is Baby, a menace-behind-the-wheel, RayBan and ear bud wearing get-away driver who makes Speed Racer look more like Slow Racer. Baby has a past that has put him, unwillingly, into the service of an organized criminal mastermind who arranges large scale heists, and considers Baby his good luck charm.

When the story picks up Baby about to clear his slate and move on to a wholesome life with his love-at-first-sight sweetheart Debora, the object of his obsession. They decide that after Baby’s last job they will head west on the 20, in a car they can’t afford, with a plan they don’t have. Unfortunately for the young lovebirds other people’s obsessions contradict their own and things go south quickly, forcing Baby to get behind the wheel one last time. Well, presumably one last time. Sony has already proposed a sequel.

It’s an easy argument to make that the soundtrack for the film is one of the main, and most important, characters. It moves the film along as much as any of the performances or dialogue, and Wright has always had a knack for using the perfect song to take a scene from great to legendary, see Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” playing while zombies overrun the Winchester in “Shaun of the Dead.” In a chicken and egg scenario, the soundtrack is full of gems that make you question if the movie makes the songs seem cooler or if it’s the other way around. After all, how often does a two minute bongo jam crack into one of iTunes top albums?

In addition to the first-class music, the film boasts a rock-star cast of Hollywood A-listers. With frantic performances from John Hamm and Jamie Foxx along with up-and-comers Ansel Elgort, Eiza González, and Lily James, all being orchestrated by the legend, Kevin Spacey, the film avoids trying to hard and transcends into just being cool. The performances are believable from top to bottom, even when the actions of the characters aren’t.

Any fan of car chases is likely to be a fan of this film. The film has a number of wonderful scenes outside the car but it’s likely that, without the benefit of multiple viewings, many viewers may not remember them. The car chases, or in one glorious scene, foot chase, are as good as have ever been put on the big screen. Cars go sideways, cars jump, and cars crash. Physics is something left by the side of the road and, with a little suspension of disbelief, nobody cares. This film has a car body count that would make Jake and Elwood proud.

The films biggest twists and turns generally surprise, and leave the viewer questioning the motives of characters who otherwise play to type. These u-turns help keep the story moving but are occasionally cause for a loss of immersion, which is really a shame in a film that otherwise has a white knuckle grip on the audience from start to finish.

It’s 112, cuticle-chewing because your fingernails didn’t make it through the first 30, minutes thrills. Small sins are easily forgivable as cinema-goers are never given enough time to dwell before being thrust back into the fast lane at 100 miles an hour. This is a film that will remain relevant among action movies for decades, be looked back at as a stylistic representation of it’s era, a time capsule of the twenty-teens. It’s a film that will race around your consciousness for days after you’ve seen it. See it on the big screen because if you let that opportunity pass you will regret it when you are watching it on a shitty phone screen or iPad a year from now.

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